1. Please list a limited number, preferably between five and ten, of the important priority areas that must be addressed through the SDGs to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
There are many priority topics that would be relevant to have in mind when developing the SDGs, including issues such as sustainable human settlements; sustainable consumption and production; sustainable management of oceans; decent green jobs; disaster risk reduction and resilience; sustainable land use and climate change, etc.
We do, however, find it premature to propose such an extensive list at this stage, and will limit ourselves to highlight three priority areas that will need to be addressed in one way or another through the SDGs, namely: energy, food security and water.
These three stand out because they are key for the achievement of sustainable development; they are good examples of issues that need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner – integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions: and there is a clear nexus linking the three together. Furthermore, these issues are not sufficiently addressed in the MDGs.
A second category of priority areas are those that all the goals should contribute to. These should include: reducing poverty, inequity and gender inequality and promoting sustainable management and use of natural resources and building the resilience of ecosystems. How these issues should be addressed (cross-cutting and/or specific goals) would need to be discussed more thoroughly in the course of the process.
2. How might the SDGs strive to balance the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development?
a. Reflect social, economic and environmental dimensions within each SDG, possibly through the associated targets
We believe that option a) is what we should strive for - that each SDG should address all three dimensions - social, economic and environmental, with special focus on their inter-linkages and potential synergies. This could i.a. be done through the associated targets. In our view, the integration of the three dimensions is the essence of sustainable development, and one of the areas where the SDGs could really be innovative and add value to the broader post 2015 agenda.
b. Integrate the MDGs, suitably modified/updated for post-2015, into a larger sustainable development framework
c. Expand MDG7 (‘environmental sustainability’) into a number of goals with a natural/environmental resource dimension (water, food, energy, etc.)
d. Other (please describe)
Energy can illustrate this cross-cutting challenge of sustainable development: Improving access to modern energy services has an obvious social dimension; improved energy efficiency and increased use of sustainable energy have clear economic and environmental dimensions. The three dimensions are closely interlinked, and should be addressed in a comprehensive manner. For example, a possible goal on energy, e.g. “Sustainable energy for all”, could have a set of associated global targets covering areas such as energy access, energy efficiency and use of clean or renewable energy, as well as on interlinkages such as between energy and health, and energy and gender.
Another illustrating example is the issue of water: more sustainable water management could simultaneously benefit the environment, make agricultural production more resilient and reduce child mortality. We should strive to address these dimensions in an integrated manner.
3. Based on your experience with MDGs or other existing goals, what would be the key use of SDGs for your country (select at most two)?
Key use #1
e. Helping to balance economic, social and environmental pillars in policy making
Key use #2
f. Guiding development cooperation
If g. Other (please describe)
As the SDGs are yet to be developed, it is a bit premature to indicate clearly how they will be applied. But with that reservation, e) and f) seem to be the most relevant options for us at this stage:
Re e): As the SDGs are meant to be universal in nature, they should also be relevant for our domestic policies. Although it is difficult to indicate how at this early stage, we hope the SDGs will help strengthen our ongoing efforts to balance and integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions in policy making, i.a. as formulated in Norway’s national strategy for sustainable development.
Re f): For Norway, our experience with the MDGs has primarily been as a guide for our development cooperation, and we hope the SDGs can have a similar guiding role.
4. How can “universally applicable” SDGs be made practically relevant for countries at different levels of development? (Please refer to your country’s situation as appropriate.)
Answer to questions 4 and 5 combined:
The SDGs should be global in nature and hence common to all countries. There should preferably also be a common set of targets, but with sufficient flexibility to allow the targets to be tailored to national conditions and priorities. National circumstances and level of development should guide which targets are most important for each country’s national development and how each country could best contribute towards the global goal.
Two examples to illustrate this:
We could for example have a global SDG on “food security for all”- a goal that all countries should strive towards, but in different ways. Under such a global goal there could be a subset of targets, e.g. on increasing food production, on access to food, on sustainable land and water management, on reducing food loss and waste etc. Some of these targets would be relevant for all countries, like sustainable land and water management. Some targets would be relevant for many countries, but with different means. Reducing food loss and waste, for example, would in some countries require better storage and transport facilities, while a different set of policies would be required in countries like Norway. Measures to increase food production will similarly vary from country to country and will i.a. depend on natural circumstances (quality and size of arable land, coastal access etc.). Improving access to food will be closely linked to poverty reduction and require a different set of measures. Some countries should, in addition to national measures, also be in a position to contribute towards the global achievement of these goals and targets, i.a. through development cooperation.
Similarly, for a possible global SDG on “sustainable energy for all”, a key national challenge for a country like Norway may be to improve our energy efficiency. For many developing countries, on the other hand, achieving universal access to modern energy services would be the first priority, a target Norway could contribute towards i.a. through development cooperation.
5. The SDGs are supposed to be “global in nature”. Should targets associated with those goals be:
a. common to all countries
If c., please explain how:
See combined answer in 4.
6. Which existing goals and targets (e.g., MDGs, goals/targets in Agenda 21, JPOI) do you think should be incorporated - perhaps in updated form - in a proposal for sustainable development goals?
Answer to questions 6 and 7 combined:
The SDGs should be integrated into the post 2015 agenda and they should complement the MDGs, rather than incorporate them. The SDGs should build upon previous commitments and already agreed goals and targets and add value to these, without necessarily having to repeat them.
There are three key features where the SDGs could really complement the MDGs and bring something new and innovative into the post 2015 agenda: By developing goals that are global and universally applicable; By developing goals that integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (rather than addressing them in separate goals); By addressing priority issues that are key to sustainable development, but are not sufficiently addressed by the MDGs, such as energy. These features should hence be given priority when developing the SDGs
On process: To ensure the best possible coherence with the broader process on the UN development agenda beyond 2015, the SDG Open Working Group should aim at submitting a (preliminary, if necessary) report in time for the MDG review summit in 2013.
7. What specific steps can be taken to ensure that the SDGs are coherent with and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015?
See combined answer in 6.
8. How should assessments of progress toward the achievement of the SDGs be carried out at the global level?
Developing the SDGs should be seen an integral part of the process on the post-2015 development agenda, and we should aim at having one set of global development goals from 2015. Assessment of progress towards their achievement will be crucial, hence the need to keep the goals concise and action-oriented, building on the MDG experience. How to assess progress more specifically will depend on the way the goals are formulated, and would best be addressed within the framework of the integrated broader post-2015 process.
9. What measures should be taken to make the process of developing a proposal for SDGs inclusive and participatory? How should civil society and other relevant stakeholders be engaged?
A suitable mechanism should be established to allow civil society and other relevant stakeholders and expertise to provide input to the open working group on an ongoing basis. Inclusive processes at the national level should also be encouraged.
10. What principles should underpin the development of the SDGs? (the UN TT report, for example, recommended adding (i) reducing inequalities and (ii) promoting human rights (iii) ensuring sustainability);
The UN TT report provides a very useful starting point for a broader discussion of principles to underpin both the SDGs and a broader, integrated post 2015 development agenda. The three proposed principles are fundamental. We also find the four proposed core dimensions to be of great value (peace and security, inclusive social development, inclusive economic development and environmental sustainability).
11. How should a new Global Partnership for Development be constructed within or around the SDGs?
This issue should be addressed in the context of a broader, integrated post-2015 process.
12. Do you have any other observations, ideas or inputs you would like to offer to inform the initial work of the open working group on sustainable development goals?
Submitted by: Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN